Stephen Thorne, known to Doctor Who fans for decades as the actor who gave thunderous voice to Omega, Azal, and Eldrad, has died. He was 84 and had reportedly been suffering from cancer.
Stephen’s death was announced on Twitter today by the actor Lisa Bowerman (Big Finish companion, Bernice Summerfield) at the request of his old friend, fellow Who stalwart Christopher Benjamin (Henry Gordon Jago in the iconic The Talons of Weng-Chiang).
Stephen was a RADA-trained actor whose other TV credits included Z-Cars, Crossroads, and Last of the Summer Wine. But it was for his rich, powerful vocal performances that he was best known. He played Aslan in an animated telling of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and reprised the role for radio in The Magician’s Nephew. For Radio 4, he voiced Treebeard in The Lord of the Rings and Death in Terry Pratchett’s Guards! Guards! In total, Stephen recorded over 300 unabridged audiobooks (including several Target novelisations of classic Who stories), winning numerous awards along the way. Reminiscing in 2001 at the Who@38 event held at Queen Mary University, Stephen spoke of his fondness for Omega, noting that “larger than life characters are so much fun to play.”
Speaking of his time filming The Three Doctors with Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee, Stephen told an audience in 2010 of the problems he had with Omega’s mask. The restricted vision it afforded meant that he could barely see the actors he was working with and continually stood between the Jon Pertwee and the camera. After the third time Pertwee had moved Stephen out of his shot, Patrick Troughton intervened, saying “Jon, what on earth are you doing? It doesn’t matter where you are, it’s not you they want to see. It’s the monster they want to see.”
Lisa Bowerman praised Stephen’s “magnificent voice” and contrasted the ranting megalomaniacs whom he played with the actor himself: “those who knew him, know what a gentle man he was.” Moths Ate My Doctor Who Scarf creator Toby Hadoke described Stephen as, “A lovely man with a voice that could move mountains or woo angels.”
Stephen Thorne photo: Crispian Thorne.